I keep hearing bursts of static from the speakers of my electronic keyboard. At first I thought there was a loose electrical connection, but sometimes it has a rhythmic pattern to it, like “rat tatatat tatatat tatatat.” And once I think I heard it coming from my computer speakers too. What is causing these strange noises?

  • This used to happen a lot with my computer speakers, and I never could figure out why, despite extensive web searching. Happened last night with my keyboard, and my fiancée immediately knew what was wrong. So happy to finally figure this out! Apr 27 '14 at 22:35
  • My old radio used to always do that - it got to where I could pick up my phone and answer it almost before it started ringing. Apr 28 '14 at 7:00

The noises are caused by electronics picking up wireless signals from your mobile phone and translating the interference into sound. Well-shielded circuits won't have this problem, but it's common in consumer electronics and some musical equipment, notably guitar leads. There's no damage to your equipment, and if the sound is a problem just keep the phone away from your electronic components and signal cables.

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    It tends to be much worse with electric-guitar equipment, which is notoriously susceptible to any interference because of its (technically questionable, but you know, vintage) high-impedance design. Apr 28 '14 at 0:03
  • Oh cool! I have not personally experienced that yet, but hopefully this question and answer will help people who do. Apr 28 '14 at 1:07
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    If it's the speaker wires picking up signals, then it will happen when the amp. is not turned on. Bet it doesn't. It's more likely to be RF picked up by the amp. circuitry and sent to the speakers (through their wires).Generally a guitar lead will act as an aerial to pick up RF.
    – Tim
    Apr 28 '14 at 15:24
  • @Tim Thanks for the feedback. I've edited the answer to indicate that it isn't necessarily the speaker wiring picking up the interference, and also incorporated other comments. Apr 29 '14 at 1:38

The above two answers are correct, however, here is some more details:

It's called electrostatic interference. It's caused by unbalanced cables picking up radio waves, basically acting as a radio antenna. If you are using an amplifier or a loud speaker this may be fixed by running a balanced cable instead or an unbalanced cable. If you go to purchase one this is what you want to look for:

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    Looks like a good option for guitarists. Unfortunately won't help with the integrated speakers in my keyboard! Thanks for pointing out this solution for some musicians, +1! Apr 29 '14 at 6:39
  • Sorry I guess I missed that part. Well, keeping it away from electronics will definitely help. Anything that emits radio waves. Do you use this for playing gigs or is it just stationary at your house? Apr 29 '14 at 6:47
  • Balanced cables actually won't have much benefit for an electric guitar, since guitars don't send balanced signals. You can use them but it only sends a mono signal so it will only be using one of the connections, I think. Plus, balanced cables are WAY more expensive. Apr 29 '14 at 7:02
  • Ah ok, thanks for the clarification! The specific device that prompted this is my practice keyboard, which I primarily use to study music, as I'm more of a singer and guitarist. But I've run across the problem with other kinds of sound equipment too and figured it was a common enough problem to q&a here. Apr 29 '14 at 7:15
  • It could be electromagnetic interference which will be a hum or a buzz. It can be caused by the power source. If the power source is internal and it is a cheaper electric piano, this could be your problem. If the power source is outside the equipment (a black box attached to the power cable) move it away from the equipment. Apr 29 '14 at 7:43

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